Evolution of cis-regulatory elements in a repetitive sequence adjacent to a sea urchin aboral ectoderm -specific gene

Sandeep Dayal, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The creation, preservation, and degeneration of cis-regulatory elements controlling developmental gene expression are fundamental genome-level evolutionary processes about which little is known. In this study, critical differences in cis-regulatory elements controlling the expression of the sea urchin aboral ectoderm-specific spec genes were identified and explored. In genomes of species within the Strongylocentrotidae family, multiple copies of a repetitive sequence element termed RSR were present, but RSRs were not detected in genomes of species outside Strongylocentrotidae. RSRs are invariably associated with spec genes, and in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, the spec2a RSR functioned as a transcriptional enhancer displaying greater activity than RSRs from the spec1 or spec2c paralogs. Single base-pair differences at two cis-regulatory elements within the spec2a RSR greatly increased the binding affinities of four transcription factors: SpCCAAT-binding factor at one element and SpOtx, SpGoosecoid, and SpGATA-E at another. The cis-regulatory elements to which SpCCAAT-binding factor, SpOtx, SpGoosecoid, and SpGATA-E bound were recent evolutionary acquisitions that could act either to activate or repress transcription, depending on the cell type. These elements were found in the spec2a RSR ortholog in Strongylocentrotus pallidus but not in the RSR orthologs of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis or Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus. These results indicate that spec genes exhibit a dynamic pattern of cis-regulatory element evolution while stabilizing selection preserves their aboral ectoderm expression domain.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Dayal, Sandeep, "Evolution of cis-regulatory elements in a repetitive sequence adjacent to a sea urchin aboral ectoderm -specific gene" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3131475.